With the NFL draft just a couple months away, we can now speculate on which teams will be targeting certain players. Numerous factors go into the mock draft process, such as the Senior Bowl, NFL scouting combine, Pre-Draft visits and Pro-days. However, despite these certainties, even ESPN Draft guru Mel Kiper has trouble getting it right. I have been mocking drafts for seven years now, as it is my favorite time of the off-season, so without further ado, here is my third mock of 2013…
1. Kansas City Chiefs- OT Luke Joeckel (Michigan)
News broke out that NT Star Lotuleilei was held out of the NFL combine due to a heart condition prompting me to swing my selection toward Joeckel. With QB Alex Smith now under center, he will have two quality bookends for the foreseeable future, making free-agent LT Branden Albert the odd man out.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars- DT Sharrif Floyd (Florida)
This was a tough choice between Floyd and Bjoern Werner (Florida State). However, Floyd wins out as he is better suited for Gus Bradley’s hybrid 4-3 defensive scheme. Floyd played both defensive end and defensive tackle during his time at Florida, so versatility wins out here. And with the Jags owning the worst sack total in 2012, Floyd will provide a much needed boost to a lackluster pass-rush up the middle.
3. Oakland Raiders- DE Damontre Moore (Texas A&M)
This selection was also a toss up between Moore and DE Bjoern Werner (Florida State). However, Moore gets the nod because after doing my due diligence, I found out that Terrell Williams was named the new defensive line coach for the Raiders. That may not seem like much, but considering Williams was Moore’s d-line coach at Texas A&M, is a good indicaor that he will vouch for his stud pass rusher. The Raiders clearly have a need at the outside linebacker position, but with Moore still on the board, he is too good to pass up.
4. Philadelphia Eagles- G Chance Warmack (Alabama)
For the first time in 38 years, an interior offensive lineman hears his name called within the first five picks. New head coach Chip Kelly will run some type of a spread offense and will need the right personnel to help run the scheme. With Chance Warmack, they get not only the “best player available” but the best interior offensive lineman in the draft. Furthermore, current offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland was Warmack’s position coach while at Alabama, so you know he will be vouching for one of his own.
5. Detroit Lions- DE Bjoern Werner (Florida State)
With Warmack off the board, the Lions will pick the best player available (BPA) regardless of position and Werner fits the bill. GM Martin Mayhew loves smart, fast, and physical players and Werner hits on all those qualities. Mayhew a former Florida State player himself, goes back to his roots and selects the Seminole. And although Senior Bowl favorite DE Ezekial Ansah (BYU) is still on the board, he is too much of a risk at this pick to warrant a selection.
6. Cleveland Browns- CB Dee Milliner (Alabama)
With new VP of Player Personnel Michael Lombardi taking over operations you can bet your money he will go defense. Cleveland’s pass defense ranked 7th worst in the NFL, and with Milliner still on the board, it would be a wise investment to lock him up in Rob Chudzinski’s new defensive scheme.
7. Arizona Cardinals- T Eric Fisher (Central Michigan)
New head coach Bruce Arians and company will need to shore up that offensive line, if they hope to have any success in 2013. The Cardinals allowed 58 sacks in 2012, and Fisher would help bring stability to a shaky o-line.
8. Buffalo Bills- OLB Barkevious Mingo (LSU)
After last year’s spending frenzy on both Mario Williams and Mark Anderson, the Bills thought they had everything in place. However, after this year’s disappointing season, the Bills ranked second worst against the run, giving up 145.8 yards. Look for them to improve their defense via the draft starting with outside linebacker Barkavious Mingo. GM Buddy Nix loves SEC talent, and the fact that Mingo played for both LSU while also filling a glaring need, fits perfectly.
9. New York Jets- WR Cordarrelle Patterson (Tennessee)
The New York Jets desperately need some playmakers on the outside, and with Patterson being rated the highest on most draft boards, expect head coach Rex Ryan to ride the SEC product, as he is currently on the hot seat.
10. Tennessee Titans- DT Star Lotuleilei (Utah)
This was a hard decision as G Jonathan Cooper was still on board. However the Titans passed on G David DeCastro last year in favor of WR Kendall Wright, so selecting the BPA is not their top priority as they tend to draft toward need. The Titans have a huge hole to plug in the middle of their defense and Lotuleilei will fill in nicely. A great value pick for Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Munchak.
11. San Diego Chargers- T Lane Johnson (Oklahoma)
With OLB Shaun Phillips possibly leaving via free-agency, made selection of Dion Jordan (Oregon) more appealing. However, the Chargers have a bigger need along the offensive line, especially at left tackle as QB Phillip Rivers was sacked 49 times. Due to this ongoing issue, the Chargers select Johnson who has been sky-rocketing up draft boards since the NFL combine.
12. Miami Dolphins- WR Keenan Allen (Cal) In a very weak WR draft class, the Dolphins reach for yet another weapon for quarterback QB Ryan Tannehill to work with. The Cal-product should provide as a great compliment to WR Brian Hartline, who enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2012, and help Tannehill in his maturation process as a quarterback.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- FS Kenny Vaccaro (Texas)
The Bucs defense was the epitome of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. While the rush defense was tops in the league, their pass defense was the worst, giving up (297.4) passing yards through the air, and that’s where Vaccaro comes into play. The heart and soul of the Longhorns defense, Vaccaro will instantly upgrade a porous secondary. Head coach Greg Schiano loves team captains, and he gets another one in Vaccaro.
14. Carolina Panthers- DT Sheldon Richardson (Missouri)
The Panthers desperately need a “pusher” up the middle and Richardson provides this skill set. He is extremely athletic, while possessing the quick twitch muscles to explode off the snap. Richardson is not only athletic, but also has a high motor, often fighting double-teams in his pursuit of the quarterback. He won’t put up eye-popping sack numbers, but will push the pocket, allowing others to clean up the work.
15. New Orleans Saints- OLB Dion Jordan (Oregon) This was an extremely tough choice between rising star Jordan and top five talent OLB Jarvis Jones (Georgia). We all know had Jones not had his spinal stenosis concerns, he would have easily been a top five pick. However, he will continue to slide here as GM Mickey Loomis although staying true to his board, selects the healthier alternative.
16. St. Louis Rams- OLB Jarvis Jones (Georgia)
GM Les Snead has the ability to roll the dice with two first-round picks and drafts a stud in Jones. With the Rams maintaining their 4-3 defense, they will need more depth at the linebacker position, and with Jones still on the board, and LB Rocky McIntosh’s future in limbo, look for the Rams to select Jones, as he’s tough, physical, and fast.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers- DE Ezekial Ansah (BYU)
The Steelers defense although superb, is quickly aging. Despite being ranked #1 in total defense, numerous players are not getting any younger. Realizing this, the Steelers select Ansah. A player who has been climbing up draft boards should be groomed into the position as DE Brett Keisel seems to be slowing down and playing in the last year of his contract.
18. Dallas Cowboys- G Jonathan Cooper (North Carolina)
The Cowboys ranked 31st in the league in rushing, and it was in large part due to the offensive line. Not anymore, as America’s team selects one of the best player’s available in Cooper. A top 10 talent, Cooper slid because guards are not a prized position. The Cowboys needing a much needed face lift along the offensive line, QB Tony Romo finally gets some help down in the trenches.
19. New York Giants- DT Sylvester Williams (UNC)
The Giants address their need at defensive tackle all while picking the “BPA.” Sly Williams has all the tools to be a productive player in the NFL, and with head coach Tom Coughlin coaching him up, it should be fun to watch.
20. Chicago Bears- T D.J. Fluker (Alabama)
New head coach Marc Trestman adds another bodyguard for QB Jay Cutler. It seemed like every drop back Cutler took resulted in some type of a hurry or sack. In Trestman’s offense, it is extremely imperative that the line is their strength not their weakness, making the selection of Fluker the team’s highest priority.
21. Cincinnati Bengals- DE Datone Jones (UCLA)
With DE Michael Johnson’s future with the team uncertain, the Bengals select the BPA while assuring them an insurance policy. Jones’ versatility as a pass-rusher in a 3-4 scheme at UCLA will help him thrive in Mike Zimmer’s defense. Furthermore, Jones had a great combine comparing similar to DE Carlos Dunlap’s back in 2010.
22. St. Louis Rams (from Washington)- Johnathan Hankins (Ohio St.)
The Rams find a partner in crime to match with last year’s first-round pick DT Michael Brockers. Hankins is massive at 320 pounds and will provide a clog in the middle. Paired with Brockers they will account for 642 pounds of mass! That is a lot of weight to push around in the middle. Although not a great pass-rusher, Hankins will be a great two-down lineman in the defensive line rotation.
23. Minnesota Vikings- ILB Alec Ogletree (Georgia)
Due to Ogletree’s checkered past and off-field issues, Ogletree slides toward the end of the first-round. A player with top 15 talent, Ogletree has the speed, athleticism, and smarts to make plays sideline to sideline at the next level. Overshadowed by his teammate Jarvis Jones, Ogletree is just as explosive versus the run and pass. GM Rick Spielman always takes the BPA, and Ogletree’s talent outweighs the risks, making this pick a no-brainer.
24. Indianapolis Colts- DT Kawaan Short (Purdue)
The Colts ranked 29th against the rush, therefore making the nose tackle position their highest priority. Short had an outstanding Senior Bowl showing great instincts and quick feet. Head coach Chuck Pagano was watching the North practice, which sways my selection for Short.
25. Seattle Seahawks- G Larry Warford (Kentucky)
The offensive line is by far Seattle’s biggest concern, and with the Seahawks coveting SEC players, they pull the trigger on Senior Bowl standout Larry Warford. An absolute beast in the trenches, Warford will bring a nasty presence to a vulnerable line.
26. Green Bay Packers- C Barrett Jones (Alabama)
The Packers are clearly in need of a center after releasing Jeff Saturday, and they get the cream of the crop in Barrett Jones. The ‘Bama product is tough, physical, and smart, all qualities GM Ted Thompson covets. A safe pick, Thompson plays it safe and selects the BPA.
27. Houston Texans- S Eric Reid (LSU)
The Texans finally shore up the back end of their defense with LSU product Eric Reid. He has all the intangibles the Texans coaching staff covets, including smarts, work ethic, and athleticism. Reid’s ability to be a physical tackler is something that has been sorely missing in the past.
28. Denver Broncos- DT John Jenkins (Georgia)
This was a tough choice between Jenkins and MLB Kevin Minter (LSU). However, Jenkins wins out as the Broncos ranked 16th in the NFL against the rush.
29. New England Patriots- CB Xavier Rhodes (Florida St.)
The Patriots luck out as they get a steal in Xavier Rhodes. The Florida State cornerback had a great NFL combine and measured up similarly to past cornerbacks drafted by the Patriots, including Terrence Wheatley, Darius Butler, and Devin McCourty. With head coach Bill Belichick loving SEC, Big East, and Pac-12 talent, they get the second best cornerback in the draft from the SEC.
30. Atlanta Falcons- MLB Kevin Minter (LSU)
Although the popular choice would be tight-end, the Falcons desperately need a run stuffing linebacker and Minter is the perfect fit. With GM Thomas Dimitroff loving SEC and XII players, this is a no-brainer selection. Minter is a first-round talent who Mel Kiper calls a “tackling machine.”
31. San Francisco 49ers- DE Margus Hunt (SMU)
GM Trent Baalke understands talent when he sees it, and Margus Hunt is no exception. Hunt “wowed” scouts during the NFL combine and was the “workout warrior.” Not to be disappointed the tape also did not lie, as Hunt holds the NCAA record for most blocked field-goals. With DE Justin Smith aging, it would be wise to groom his viable replacement sooner rather than later.
32. Baltimore Ravens- DE/OLB Sam Montgomery (LSU)
The Ravens always select the BPA, and this year is no different. Montgomery barely makes it out of the first-round due to his versatility. Montgomery has a great motor and will have to utilize his quickness to get around offensive tackles. A great player in pursuit, Montgomery has all the intangibles to be a double-digit sack artist in the NFL.